The Detroit Lions picked up an impressive win on Sunday against the Washington Commanders, and now hope has sprung eternal.
The offense is rolling, having scored 35 points in three-straight games (going back to last year)—the first time this organization has accomplished that since the 1952-53 season. And while the defense isn’t a statistical darling, they pitched a shutout in the first half against the Commanders in one of the most impressive defensive performances we’ve seen in Detroit in some time. It was a glimpse as to what this defense could be—something we never even came close to seeing last season.
Across the rest of the NFC North, things seemed to have evened out after a wild Week 1. The Chicago Bears came crashing back to reality after the Green Bay Packers—who predictably rebounded after an awful Week 1—just dominated their NFC North foe.
The Minnesota Vikings, who were one of the most impressive teams in the opening week of the season, got served some humble pie by the Philadelphia Eagles—the team that just so happened to edge out the Lions in Week 1.
Put it all together and we’ve got a four-way tie in the NFC North. Everyone is 1-1.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
Do the Lions have a realistic shot at the NFC North this year?
My answer: I’m not quite ready to go that far. As promising as Sunday’s game was, this is still a very young team that will go through some adversity the rest of the way. This Sunday’s game against the Vikings—the team’s first road trip this year—will serve as an excellent litmus test for Detroit. This team has really struggled with in-division games, and until the Lions can consistently pick up wins against other NFC North teams, it’s hard to give them a realistic shot to contend for their first NFC North title… ever.
That said, it’s easy to see the significant progress this team has made with their personnel. Their offense has two legitimate stars in Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift, plus a rock solid offensive line to go with them. The defense has two extremely promising rookies in Aidan Hutchinson and Malcolm Rodriguez, while they’ve been getting great early returns from players like Jeff Okudah and Tracy Walker.
And each NFC North team has shown their flaws this early in the season. In fact, the Lions are really the only team that hasn’t gotten blown out in a game yet. This isn’t a great division. Heck, it’s not a great conference. The opportunities to win are there.
But the sample size is just too small for me to make any significant changes to my preseason predictions. Maybe the Eagles and Commanders defenses turn out to be duds (though Philly’s defense was great on Monday), and Detroit’s hot start on offense isn’t as impressive as it looks. Maybe the progress we saw on defense in Week 2 was more an anomaly than actual improvement.
And, as always, the Lions have to forever be an evolving team. The Lions have seen a lot of success on offense thus far, but now there’s tape on them. Teams will try to exploit some of the weaknesses shown early in the season, and the Lions will have to adjust. Are the Lions coaches up to that challenge? Can they deliver their own counterpunches? Those are all questions we don’t have answers to with this young team.
Truth is, the Packers still have to be considered heavy favorites. Their defensive roster is quite impressive, and even though the offense has had a slow start to the season, Aaron Rodgers is the ultimate equalizer. Simply put, Green Bay has won the division eight times since 2011. They’re heavy favorites until otherwise proven.
Will the Lions compete every week and even steal some games within the division? Probably. Is it within the realm of possibilities that Detroit walks away with the division in Year 2 under Dan Campbell? Safe. Do I think that’s a realistic outcome this year? No, not yet.